Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Colonel and I

I often have my MP3 player on as I walk to the gym.  The song, "Monkey On A String" by Ethel Smith came on, and I smiled to myself.  Those my age and older who grew up in Chicago would instantly recognize the song as the theme of "Garfield Goose and Friends", a popular local kids' show that ran from the mid 1950's to the mid 1970's.  I had never known the name of the song until I heard it played on a program on Loyola University's radio station - "The Comedy Express" - over a week ago.  I found it on iTunes and brought it.  Happy memories of myself and my late younger siblings watching that show daily after school crossed my mind as I made my way to the gym.

The temperatures were a little cool in the gym, but warmer than the atmosphere at church, where Pastor Roger and I are still frosty towards each other.  At least I was able to work in my office, where the walls have been painted, and the floor has been replaced.  It looks very nice, and a lot brighter in that room where it used to be.

Rich came in, and it was very good to see him.  He sparred with Louis, who also hadn't been in the gym in awhile.  Rich looked good in the ring.  But Louis didn't look bad, either.  Rich caught Louis with a lot of shots, but Louis slipped and ducked a lot of the other ones.

I noticed that Louis often got caught up in the corners.  Rich cut off the ring a lot, so Louis had to be creative about getting away from him.

In the photo above, Alan gives Louis some pointers before the bell rang.

I sparred with Colonel for the first time.  Colonel had told me that he wanted me to make him move around the ring by chasing him and staying on him.  I was a bit apprehensive about sparring with him.  Colonel's had some health issues over the past few months, and I didn't want to do anything that would hurt him.  But Colonel insisted he was fine, so we got into the ring.  I got him right on the chin a couple of times with my right.  I kept going for the body, too, but I deliberately did not put full force behind any of my punches.

We did a couple of rounds, and that was enough for Colonel.  He was moving around a lot, and at one point, Colonel did a very slick slip to avoid a right I threw.  I told Colonel that I now know where his son, Kenny, gets a lot of his moves from.  "I didn't hurt you, did I?  I just gave a few love taps," Colonel laughed. He pointed out that he knew that's all I was giving out as well.  "Next time, I really want you to hit me," he said.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Bad Days Made Better Down at the Gym

There are many reasons that people dread Mondays.  I had a few of my own reasons today.  The alarm clock went off this morning, and I turned over to click on the radio.  I turned over again to get a little more shut eye when I heard a horrible news story: a one-year-old in Georgia had been shot in the face because a couple of teenagers didn't get the money they wanted out of the child's mother.  I hear of so many shootings in Chicago that oftentimes, I just shake my head and think, "Here's another one", shrug my shoulders and keep moving.  But that news story disgusted and disturbed me.  I had to get up because I could no longer sleep after hearing that.

When I got to work, a quick check of Facebook revealed the sad news that a friend of mine whom I graduated with from high school had passed away.  Charles was a funny, bright guy who always kept people laughing.  The last time I saw him was at one of the high school alumni holiday functions.  I knew Charles had been ill on and off, but it was still a shock to hear that.  Tears pooled in my eyes as I read the news.

The tears gave way to anger when a disagreement took place at work between myself and the pastor.  One of the heavy bags in the gym really took a beating from me when I got there.  Still, I couldn't completely get my mind focused on the workout because of all that had taken place earlier in the day.  But it felt better to take some of my feelings out on the equipment.  I guess I've been fortunate, if you want to put it like that, that some bad days always seem to happen on the days that I'm scheduled to go to the boxing gym.  I don't kick the bags when I'm there, as I sometimes have seen others do, because it's not a martial arts gym.  But if I could have executed some kicks to the bag I was on, I might have knocked it completely off the chain.  It was that type of day.

Not many people came in. Alan wasn't in because Passover begins today. In the gym was Colonel, Brandy, Momo, Bean, Sarah, and Amy.  Emmanuel stopped in briefly to see if the Park District fight schedule was posted yet.  He wants to get some fights in this time around.

There was a long box laying on the floor in front of the mirrors.  Colonel helped me set it upright so that others wouldn't trip over it.  Looks like it might be a brand new heavy bag.  However, we have four in the gym propped up against the walls because there is no room to hang them.  What is really needed is a new ring. There's tape in the middle of the canvas to keep down a piece of it that is coming up.  The rest of the canvas is frayed around the edges.  Plus, the ring canvas is on the floor.  A regular size ring will not fit easily into the gym, but a smaller one raised up a foot or two off of the floor would work nicely.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Momo's Return

The guy in the photo above is Muhammad, or Momo, for short.  I wish I had been taking pictures when Steve was the coach, because I could have had a 'before and after' photo of Momo.  I almost didn't recognize him!  He'd lost so much weight.  He's happily married now and is the proud father of a boy and a girl.  He wants to get back in shape, so he plans to start frequenting the gym again.

The crowd was very light on what was the last day of the Winter session.  Outside of Momo, Colonel, Amy, Sarah, and Igor were in attendance.  The gym was cold.  It was only about 20 degrees outside.   I guess it wasn't enough people inside the gym to bring the temperature up.

Sarah and I sparred, and I noticed the composure that Colonel always says that I have.  Believe me, that took a long time to develop, because I sure didn't have it during the numerous fist fights I was in when I was young.  I was just go for broke back then.  A lot of damage was inflicted, but I took a lot of damage, too.  I still have the scars to prove it.  Boxing taught me that it is better to fight with a clear head, without emotion.  Sarah threw a lot of punches, but most of the time, I just waited for her to come closer before attacking.

She throws good hooks, but as Alan pointed out, they are usually too wide.  Sarah could put a hurt on a lot of opponents if she shortens up the distance from whence she throws those hooks.  I made a point of keeping my right hand glued to the side of my head while I was standing straight up.  But as usual, when I went in for the body shots, both hands were down.  That gave Sarah great opportunity to bang me upside my head, which she did.  I was able to use my left hook and left uppercut a few times, but I could have used them some more.

I would love to go to the Firemen vs. Policemen boxing show this year, but like everything else these days, I have to pinch pennies to see if I can afford it.  I'm always hearing that many good fights take place during that show.

Just like Sarah and her sister Amy are doing here, I should go back to using the medicine ball more.  There are so many exercises that can be done with the medicine ball to increase stamina and strength.  Here,  Sarah and Amy throw the ball back and forth to each other.

I'm thankful that Walter and Colonel bring their double end bags in so the adults can use them while we're in the gym.  Barry always locks up the one that normally hangs there now.  I've been using the double end to practice on slipping punches.  I thought I did okay with avoiding many of Sarah's punches while we sparred.

I had to put some beefcake pictures up, well because, I like looking at fine men.  Both of these pictures are of actor Robert Conrad, who is from the south side of Chicago.  He's best known for two TV series, "The Wild, Wild West" and "Baa Baa Black Sheep (Black Sheep Squadron)".  I'm guessing the black and white picture was taken during the 1960s.  The second picture shows an older -- but still in great shape -- Conrad in the 1990s.  I've mentioned here before that Conrad had been a boxer for a minute, and the stories going around state that the actor was no joke in the ring.

Alan told Sarah and I that we had some good exchanges while we sparred.  He told me that the both of us were probably going to feel those punches tomorrow.  I believe I'm feeling some of them right now.  Fortunately, I'll have my secretary's hat on instead of my custodian hat on at work tomorrow.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Ladies and Igor Too

I forgot to bring my camera down to the gym, so I'm improvising today.  The picture above is of comedy team Abbott and Costello.  I don't know if this is from their TV show or from one of their movies.  Costello (wearing the boxing glove) was a boxer for a short time before going into show business.

"Ladies night," I commented to Alan, and he nodded.  But it wasn't completely that way.  Sarah, her sister Amy, and myself were there, but Igor was in the mix, too.  Igor kept putting his mouth on the gym's water bottles, and I kept catching him doing it.  "You're not stupid, Igor.  Don't you understand?  You can't do that when everyone in here uses these bottles to get water," I said in exasperation.  I took a couple of the bottles away to wash them out.  

Sometime later, Igor points to the bottles and asks if he can get water.  "If you want water, get it.  Why are you asking me?" I said.  Alan explained to him again about not putting the opening of the water bottles in his mouth.  Igor grunted an insincere, "I'm sorry", than grumbled under his breath when I kept on him about his behavior.  But he smiled and followed Alan's directions.  Some men will ignore a woman telling them something, but will listen when a man tells them the same thing the woman just told them.

This is Eddie Murphy in a scene from the movie version of the old Bill Cosby-Robert Kulp TV series, "I Spy".  Murphy's character was involved in a boxing match in the latter part of the movie. I've always liked Murphy, but believe me, the TV show is better.

My stomach was acting up, and I had no idea why.  Everything was fine until I left the house.  With each step down the street, my stomach appeared to feel worse.  I begged off sparring with Sarah because of that.  She convinced her sister to spar with her.  Amy did well; she kept her composure very well during the last round and a half, and she got some body shots in on Sarah.  They did not spar hard, but they got in some good work with each other.  

Kenny didn't come in, and we were going to do a sparring drill where we were only going to use our left hands.  So I did the drill using one of the cylinder heavy bags, and the body snatcher bag.  I threw the jab then the left hook behind it.  My arm was a little sore because I hadn't worked it out like that in awhile.  But I need to get used to throwing the left hook more.  

This is Charles Bronson, who always played tough guys.  He appeared on TV a lot in the 1950's and early 1960's before transitioning to movies.  This photo might be from when he played a boxer on an episode of "The M Squad", a cop show that featured Lee Marvin as the lead character.

Barry texted Alan to let him know that he had a couple of his guys in the Chicago Golden Gloves.  I believe one of his guys fought as a novice, but lost.  Alan thought it might have been Nate Jr., whom I haven't seen for a long while.  Looking at the schedule, it appeared to Alan that the some of the matches would be taking place on Sundays.  "They couldn't have matches on Sundays when the Gloves were held at Gordon Tech, and especially not when the tournament was at St. Andrews.  Maybe they've scheduled those because they're at the Cicero Stadium," I told Alan.  From what I've read on Facebook, those who have already been to some of the fights aren't happy about the new location.  I'll have to see the fights there myself to give my own opinion.

I like this shot of Jackie Gleason; allegedly, it was the last portrait he did before passing away in 1987.  I saw him in person once.  He and Tom Hanks were filming the movie Nothing In Common on the street where I was living at the time.  It would be Gleason's last film.  He played a crooked fight manager in the movie version of Requiem For A Heavyweight, alongside Anthony Quinn and Mickey Rooney.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Squeals and A Shooting

Andre One (who has trained at Evanston Boxing Gym) was in the gym when I arrived.  Later, Alan told me their conversation had been a little heated before I got there.  Andre One wants to train at Loyola Park, but he hasn't paid the fee.  Alan explained that he just can't him come in and spar, or train for that matter, because of Chicago Park District rules regarding payment and liability issues.

Andre One stuck around for a little while before deciding to come back and pay when the spring sessions begins in April.  Before he left he told me another guy I hadn't seen for awhile in the gym - Anthony - had been shot some time ago.  Anthony took six bullets.  Another guy near him who also took some bullets when the guns went off didn't make it.  Anthony was able to go home from the hospital a few days later; I was glad to hear that he was still among the living.  I'm not against people owning guns, but I wish so many guns were not in the wrong hands.

In this photo, Reygie and Kenny listen to instruction from Alan before their sparring session. Once again, Reygie participated in multiple sparring rounds.

He also sparred with Walter, who had a pair of green boxing gloves on.  I've seen gloves in lots of colors, but never in that bright a shade of green.

Reygie wanted to come in on Monday, but his knee was bothering him after playing a long session of basketball over the weekend.  The only thing he could do was to ice it up.  Reygie's injury reminded me of when Pastor Roger told me why he opted out of playing football as a teen.  The pastor had been around a group of guys who were his age at the time, early to mid 30s, who were already suffering the effects of the bumps and bruises they had sustained from being athletes when they were younger.  Pastor took one look and decided he'd made a good decision not to play on a team.  But, you know, those are the chances those who participate in a sport take.  I may be on a cane by the time I'm sixty, but I won't regret the time I spent boxing.

Vachel and I sparred again, and this time, we went a little harder.  But I let her get more hits in, and I held back on throwing very hard.  The last thing I wanted to do was to knock her out, especially since she is getting used to being in the ring.

Each time I landed punches, Vachel would squeal and retreat.  In between the second and third rounds, Alan told her, "You can't let your opponent know you've been hurt by making noise!"  During the third round, Vachel started squealing again.  "Don't make noise!" Alan repeated.  

Monday, March 11, 2013

Rounds and More Rounds

Andre poses for the camera in the photo above.  I'll send him a copy of the picture.  He explained about having to take a test in class which kept him out of participating in the Golden Gloves.  "Don't worry about it; you did what you had to do.  There will be other opportunities to fight," I told Andre.  Promoters who put together show fights and even the people who put the Park District fights together are always begging for heavyweights to fill up the fight cards.

Danny, another guy who I hadn't seen in a long while, came in, bringing a friend of his, Julian, along.  Colonel explained that Kenny taught Danny how to box.  In turn, Danny taught Julian how the box.  Both guys looked good in the ring and on the bags.  In the photo above, Kenny takes on Danny.

Danny and Julian mix it up as Alan and Kenny give pointers.

Kenny works with Julian on the pads.

Vachel decided to try out sparring again.  I sparred with her for two rounds before Sarah stepped in.  Before I went in the ring, Colonel told me to "go easy" on Vachel, and I did.  It was easier to tag Vachel than it was trying to get in punches on Sarah (I did a total of four rounds).  I practiced throwing left hooks on the bag before I sparred, and amazingly, I was able to catch Sarah with some left hooks.  I never use that punch, and I need to force myself to get it in there.

Igor didn't come in.  He keeps promising to spar again with both Brandy and myself, but it hasn't happened yet.  I still want my revenge for those pops I took to my gut.  Now that I know Igor's a southpaw, I'm better prepared for him.

I'm planning to go with Kenny and Colonel when they go to a gym where fire fighters have been training for the upcoming firefighter vs. police boxing match.  It's an annual event that raises money for charities that support and help firefighters and police officers.  I've never been to that boxing show, and I hear that there are some very good boxers on the card.  Alan wondered if Meg - who's a spokesperson for the Fire Department - fights in that show.  I'm not sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if she did.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

De Boksado Decido

Alan and I talked earlier in the afternoon.  He said that he wasn't going to be at the gym because Andre was scheduled to have a super heavyweight match at the Chicago Golden Gloves. 

Brandy arrived at the gym, and I was just about to announce that Alan wouldn't be in when we heard a knock at the window.  Brandy went to the crash door just outside the gym, and she let Alan in.  I was surprised to see him.  There had been a few changes in the tournament schedule.  Unfortunately, the most recent change had Andre fighting on the same night he has a class -- and a test was scheduled in class.  Andre couldn't skip out on it, so he decided not to participate in the tournament.

Andre had to do what he had to do.  He'll get another chance to fight.  But it's too bad he couldn't have had a chance to get a trophy at the Golden Gloves this year.  Sigh. . .that just leaves Kevin, who unfortunately, wasn't in the gym to train that evening.

There was another round robin session of sparring.  As Alan put it, Reygie was the "robin".  I sparred with Reygie for three rounds, and I was worn out afterwards.  Alan told me I wasn't digging hard enough with my body shots.  Brandy took a turn with Reygie for a few rounds as seen in the photo above.

Walter got in with Reygie, and Alan told him not to turn his back on Reygie.  Walter stopped for a moment because he jammed his thumb.  The thumb had been injured previously.  Walter pulled his glove off for a second, but then he quickly put it back on.  "Let's do this," he told Reygie, and they continued. 

Vachel didn't have a mouthpiece, but after being convinced by Alan, she agreed to get into the ring with Reygie.  A request was made of Reygie to go very easy, and he did.  One of the nice things about Reygie is that he'll let the women work their punches on him. 

As Sarah sparred with Reygie, Vachel cheered her on. 

At the end of the evening, as Alan and I were leaving the gym, the both of us kept going, "Oof", and "Uhhn".  Alan didn't do a heavy workout, but I exerted a lot of energy, especially while I was in the ring with Reygie.  I figure that both Alan and I were experiencing another round of aches due to getting and being older.

The title of this post means, "A Boxing Decision".  I've taken up learning Esperanto again. 

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Slipping On Monday

The two slips I took on the ice today foretold the near falls I would take in the gym.  I fell in the alley while on my way to the doctor in the morning, and I fell again on the way home from work.  Both times, I got a good view of the sky as I lay flat on my back on the ground.

In the gym, I sparred with Sarah and Brandy.  My face took the brunt of the blows.  Both women staggered me with well-timed punches that went straight to the middle of my face.  I was a little better with aiming punches directly at their faces, but I did not connect as much as they connected their punches to me.

Brandy is very good with sticking and moving.  She steps in to deliver punches then dances out.  The technique is very effective when she's throwing body punches.  She is also good at picking her shots.  Where Sarah is concerned, I have to go for the body.  I've mentioned many times on here that I have a hard time trying to get around her long arms.  I was able to throw a jab over her right a few times, but my punches did not have the impact I desired.

As seen in the photo above, Reygie and Andre had a mini-war during their sparring session.  Reygie was caught up against the ropes several times, and Andre smashed his fist into into Reygie's face.  Reygie returned fire by getting in some head and face shots of his own.  Vachel watched the action with concern.  "Reygie was hit in the nose twice!  I couldn't do that.  No thanks," she told me.

Reygie is about 180 pounds; Andre is 280 pounds.  Alan commented that Andre looked bigger, like he had been lifting weights, but Andre said "I've lost some weight."

Walter, seen here in head gear while talking to Vachel, sparred with Brandy for a few rounds.  The last time he sparred with Reygie, they did a drill where they only used their jab.  Walter said it was hard to remember not to throw the right -- and he did by accident a couple of times -- but overall, it was a good exercise.

Alan once told me that he couldn't dance.  He proved it by playing around and showing off his version of a dance move while he was standing in the ring. "Trying to dance, Alan?" I laughed. "It's the Harlem Shake!" he said, referring to a dance that's currently being shown all over the Internet.  However, that's not the original dance, as Vachel pointed out to Alan.  The present version really has no connection to the dance craze of a decade and a half ago.  Reygie suggested that everyone in the gym make a "Harlem Shake" video to upload to YouTube.  Colonel said he would bring his video camera in to record it.  So I guess we're going to be acting up in the gym on Wednesday. . . .more laughs to be had.

Alan and Colonel renewed their coach's licences in Downers Grove this past Saturday.  From what they told me, the place was packed, and there was some confusion going on.  It made me very glad that I had gone to Sam's gym up on 35th Street several weeks ago to renew mine.  The people running the clinic ran out of licence books, so they had to give makeshift ones out.  Alan and Colonel have to wait on the real licences to be mailed to them from USA Boxing in Colorado.